(The Other) Hank’s Picks 8/18/15

Hank_Hoffman_Picks_Image_sketch_WebTwo Days, One Night (dir. Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, 2014)

Solidarity.

Before it was the name of an independent trade union in Communist Poland, it was the ethic that undergirds all unionism. Put in the words most often associated with the Industrial Workers of the World (colloquially known as the Wobblies), a radical American union most active in the early 1900s (although still around today): An injury to one is an injury to all.

A lack of solidarity at a small solar panels manufacturing firm in Belgium is the act that sets in motion TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT, a superb drama by Belgian filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. Oscar winning actress Marion Cotillard plays Sandra, a wife and mother who has been on sick leave from work while she battles depression. As she prepares to return she finds out that 14 out of 16 of her fellow workers, when presented with a choice to receive their promised 1,000-euro bonus or lay her off, have voted her out of a job.

But Juliette—a friendly co-worker who was one of the two who voted to save Sandra’s job—has found out that the foreman interfered in the vote by telling some workers their own jobs might be at risk if they didn’t vote for the bonus. She prevails upon Dumont, the owner of the firm, to allow a re-vote on Monday.

It is up to Juliette but more particularly Manu, Sandra’s husband, to encourage Sandra to visit each one of her co-workers over the weekend and lobby them to allow her to keep her job.

Cotillard is a glamorous star but she thoroughly inhabits the role of Sandra, projecting an intense vulnerability. The film is most certainly a commentary on the struggles of workers in the contemporary economy but in no ways a polemic. In Two Days, One Night, the Dardenne brothers have crafted a riveting drama in which even the bit characters—Sandra’s fellow Solwal workers—feel fully realized.

(The other) Hank’s recommendations 10/15/13

Hank_Hoffman_Picks_Image_sketch_Web(THE OTHER) HANK’S PICKS 10/15/13

Journalist Jeremy Scahill is not the kind of reporter who sits back in the hotel and phones in his stories based on anonymous quotes from official sources. Scahill—a war reporter who has covered conflicts in Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and the Middle East—is not averse to challenging the powers-that-be. Author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, Scahill has more recently been at the forefront of reporting on the so-called War on Terror and how government secrecy and new technology are combining to outrun Constitutional constraints on the President’s power to make war.

In the documentary DIRTY WARS, Scahill eschews the shelter of embedded journalism. Risking his personal safety, he reports on how night raids in Afghanistan, drone strikes and targeted killings in countries with which the United States is not legally at war reveal a dark truth: The United States government is unconstrained by the strictures of international law and the Constitution.

Dirty Wars, directed by Richard Rowley, plays as a noirish thriller as it follows Scahill into dangerous, lawless districts of Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. Unwilling to accept the official story at face value, Scahill interviews the relatives of drone strike and night raid victims. In the course of his reporting he exposes the operations of the Joint Special Operations Command, in essence a secret army operating globally, and challenges the legitimacy of the President’s expanding “kill list.”

(The other) Hank’s Recommendations 04/30/13

Hank_Hoffman_Picks_Image_sketch_WebBest Video’s other Hank—Hank Hoffman—here with this week’s recommendation. Hank Paper will return with a new recommendation next week.

Released just months after the end of World War II, the Warner Brothers thriller CONFIDENTIAL AGENT seethes with pre-war menace. Based on a book by Graham Greene, it tells the story of Luis Denard, an agent of the Spanish republican government (played by Charles Boyer) who travels to England hoping to cut a deal with British mining interests to buy coal during the Spanish Civil War.

Playing the romantic foil to Boyer is Lauren Bacall, who had made her name the previous year starring opposite Humphrey Bogart in TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT. Bacall was savaged for her performance in reviews at the time and, in truth, she doesn’t make a very convincing upper class English heiress. Still, she has an undeniable presence.

Boyer’s performance is convincing and he is ably supported by Katina Paxinou, Peter Lorre and particularly Wanda Hendrix as a young servant girl employed in the dingy hotel in which Boyer stays. But perhaps the real star is cinematographer James Wong Howe. The atmosphere is bleak with foreboding—the London streets (actually a Warner Brothers set) are thick with dark fog.

This is a smart story, skillfully told, a worthy blend of espionage yarn and film noir.

(The Other) Hank’s Recommendations 04/23/13

Hank_Hoffman_Picks_Image_sketch_WebBest Video’s other Hank—Hank Hoffman—here with this week’s recommendation. Hank Paper will return with a new recommendation next week.

Film Movement is a distributor of critically acclaimed independent and foreign films—we have dozens of their titles avilable to rent at Best Video. Their selections are, in a sense, curated, chosen for the quality of the storytelling, the persuasiveness of the acting, the commitment to personal vision.

KAREN CRIES ON THE BUS hails from Colombia, directed by Gabriel Rojas Vera. But unlike so many films from or about contemporary Colombia, it is not a shoot-em-up about narco-traffickers or guerrillas. Rather, it tells the story of Karen, a Colombian woman who leaves her unfulfilling marriage of ten years to the distant and emotionally abusive—albeit financially successful—Mario. With no jobs, no apparent friends,  little money and the disapproval of her mother, she makes her way out into Bogotá, renting a room in a rundown flophouse.

Karen is played by Angela Carrizosa with a naturalness that is wholly believable. Her growth into self-sufficiency is spurred in part by her tentative friendship with Patricia,  an outgoing beautician who also has a room at the boardinghouse. Feminism is a subtext, of course, but Rojas Vera doesn’t overplay that theme.

The strengths of Karen Cries on the Bus are the strengths of the Film Movement offerings overall: telling human scale stories in such a way as to richly accommodate grander visions. Check out the Film Movement titles in our New Foreign and various country sections. Almost every one is a gem.

View the trailer for Karen Cries on the Bus: